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Courting Black Voters Emanuel Spotlights Jobs Programs; Poll Suggests Bump

Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference at St. Leonard’s Ministries on Chicago’s West Side to spotlight Chicago's jobs programs for ex-offenders.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference at St. Leonard’s Ministries on Chicago’s West Side to spotlight Chicago’s jobs programs for ex-offenders.

(Chicago) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday outlined progress on job programs targeting ex-offenders, drawing praise from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago).

Emanuel, who is seeking to rebuild political support in the African-American community after his image plunged during the bitter school closures fight and Chicago teachers strike, says his Administration is providing jobs and job training, to nearly 2,200 ex-convicts, more than doubling the 900 served in 2011.

“Formerly incarcerated individuals who have paid their debt and are willing to work hard deserve a second chance at success,” said Emanuel said at a press conference at St. Leonard’s Ministries on Chicago’s West side.

“This is why I have made significant investments in programs that give formerly incarcerated individuals the jobs, training, and support they need to return to their communities,” the mayor stated.

Since taking office the Emanuel Administration has made “significant investments” in providing jobs and training to the formerly incarcerated.  In 2014, City programs will serve nearly 2200 formerly incarcerated individuals, more than double the 900 served in 2011, Emanuel claims.

These programs include:

  • CTA Second Chance Program: In 2013, the Chicago Transit Authority nearly quadrupled its Second Chance program, creating 265 rail and bus apprenticeship opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals. In 2014, the program will remain level and provide 265 jobs.
  • Job placement: City-funded job placement programs helped approximately 650 formerly incarcerated individuals find jobs during 2013. The City will maintain this placement level for 2014.
  • City employment: 110 transitional jobs with City departments that help formerly incarcerated individuals receive valuable training and build real career experience.  In addition to a 7-month work experience, participants also receive professional development services as well as intensive therapeutic services.
  • Green Corps for Chicago Parks:  In 2014, the Chicago Park District will partner with Green Corps to employ 25 formerly incarcerated individuals to perform landscape work at the City’s parks.
  • A Safe Haven Landscape Work: A Safe Haven provides landscaping, snow removal and related maintenance services to the City that collectively employ 25 formerly incarcerated individuals.  In 2013, the City of Chicago paid A Safe Haven over $800,000 through its contract and anticipates spending the same amount in 2014.  This work will continue in 2014 and the Public Building Commission has announced that it signed a $100,000 contract with A Safe Haven to provide landscaping work at PBC project sites.
  • Colleges to Careers: City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) has formed strategic partnerships with leading re-entry providers to connect individuals returning from prison to training for careers in growing sectors.  In the 2013-14 academic year, these programs served approximately 100 individuals.  These programs will serve 200 formerly incarcerated individuals in the 2014-15 academic year.
  • Other Workforce Services:  Over the past few years, the City has provided case management services to roughly 300 formerly incarcerated individuals each year through its two re-entry support centers.  In 2014, the City will add two re-entry centers and triple the number individuals served, reaching 900 formerly incarcerated individuals through four re-entry centers.

“You had that watershed moment where you made a decision, but on the other side there was someone to help you,” said Davis. “If they get help, the recidivism rate goes down and can go down by practically nothing if the person has a job.”

Emanuel’s efforts also drew praise from a freshman state lawmaker for the City’s successful effort to win from the Illinois General Assembly a tripling of the state employer tax incentive for hiring formerly incarcerated individuals from $600 per hire to $1,500 per hire.

“Providing the formerly incarcerated with the jobs, skills, and support they need to become productive members of their communities is common sense,” said Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), “These programs and incentives will help us rebuild neighborhoods, strengthen families and ensure opportunities for all residents.”

Emanuel also announced on Friday that the Chicago Housing Authority will launch a pilot family reunification program in partnership with reentry providers that will allow 50 formerly incarcerated individuals to move back into CHA housing over the next three years.

This pilot program will connect rehabilitated formerly incarcerated individuals who are stable and on a path to self-sufficiency to move in with their family members in Public Housing.

Emanuel’s initiatives to repair ties with Chicago’s African-American community may be yielding some political benefits, according to new polling data.

The mayor’s camp leaked on Wednesday bits of a poll from Chicago Democrat State Rep. Christian Mitchell’s House district that runs along the city’s North and South Side to Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Lynn Sweet, showing Emanuel’s favorable ratings among younger African-Americans and African-Americans without a college degree have risen.

The polls were of likely Democratic primary voters and conducted by Anzalone-Liszt-Grove Research. The first poll was from December 8-10, 2013; the second survey from March 8-10, 2014. The polls have a margin of error of +/- 5.5 points.

Here is a summary of the poll fragment that was leaked to Sweet:

Emanuel favorability African Americans 18-64

  • 55 favorable, 38 unfavorable MARCH
  • 42 favorable 51 unfavorable DECEMBER

Emanuel favorability Africa Americans non-college

  • 60 favorable 28 unfavorable MARCH
  • 48 favorable 45 unfavorable DECEMBER

The inference is that if the mayor is looking up in Mitchell’s district, then his favorability is likely up with African-Americans across Chicago.

Were an African-American political heavy-weight, such as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to challenge Emanuel in the February 24, 2015 mayoral election, he’ll likely need every point favorability among African-Americans that he can gather.

Emanuel won 59% of the African-American vote in the 2011 against against ex-U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, who was designated by Chicago African-American leaders as their consensus candidate, and against, ironically, Van Pelt who also ran for mayor in 2011.

So, receiving ex-mayoral rival Van Pelt and Davis’ praise at the press conference surrounded by other African-American supporters on an issue of vital interest to Chicago’s black community fits ideally into the mayor’s political strategy to regain the confidence of a vital part of his base.

Stay tuned.

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